Verse 28. "Cried through the lattice" - This is very natural: in the women's apartments in the East the windows are latticed, to prevent them from sending or receiving letters, &c. The latticing is the effect of the jealousy which universally prevails in those countries.
"Why is his chariot so long in coming?" - Literally, Why is his chariot ashamed to come? Dr. Lowth has very justly observed, that this is a striking image of maternal solicitude, and of a mind divided between hope and fear.
"The mother of Sisera looked out at a window; She cried through the lattice, 'Why is his chariot so long in coming? Why tarry the wheels of his chariot?' "Immediately, impatient of delay, she prevents the comfort of her companions; elate in mind, and bursting forth into female levity and jactation, impotent to hope for any thing, and drunk with her good fortune, "Her wise ladies earnestly answered her; Yea, she immediately returned answer to herself; 'Have they not sped? have they not divided the spoil?' "We see how consonant to the person speaking is every idea, every word.
She dwells not upon the slaughter of the enemies, the number of the captives, the valor and great exploits of the victor, but, burning with the female love of spoils, on those things rather which captivate the light mind of the vainest woman; damsels, gold, garments. Nor does she dwell upon them only; but she repeats, she accumulates, she augments every thing.
She seems, as it were, to handle the spoils. dwelling as she does on every particular.
'Have they not sped? have they not divided the prey? A damsel, yea, two damsels to every man: To Sisera, a prey of divers colours; A prey of divers colours of needlework, Finely coloured of needlework on both sides, A spoil for adorning the neck.' To enhance the beauty of this passage, there is, in the poetic conformation of the sentences, an admirable neatness in the diction, great force, splendour, accuracy; in the very redundance of the repetitions the utmost brevity; and, lastly, the most striking disappointment of the woman's hope, tacitly insinuated by that sudden and unexpected apostrophe, 'So let all thine enemies perish, O JEHOVAH!' is expressed more fully and strongly by this silence than could have been painted by any colouring of words." See Dr. Lowth, 13th Prelection, Prov. iv. 18, 19. "We cannot do better," says Dr. Dodd, "than conclude this chapter with the words of Pelicanus: 'Let a Homer, or a Virgil, go and compare his poetry, if he be able, with the song of this woman; and, if there be anyone who excels in eloquence and learning, let him celebrate the praises and learning of this panegyric, more copiously than I am able.'" FOR other matters relative to this song I must refer to the two translations which immediately follow; and their authors' notes on them. Dr. Kennicott says, "This celebrated song of triumph is most deservedly admired; though some parts of it are at present very obscure, and others unintelligible in our English version. Besides particular difficulties, there is a general one that pervades the whole; arising as I humbly apprehend, from its being considered as entirely the song of Deborah. It is certain, though very little attended to, that it is said to have been sung by Deborah and BY BARAK. It is also certain there are in it parts which Deborah could not sing, as well as parts which Barak could not sing; and therefore it seems necessary, in order to form a better judgment of this song, that some probable distribution should be made of it; whilst those words which seem most likely to have been sung by either party should be assigned to their proper name; either to that of Deborah the prophetess, or to that of Barak the captain. "For example: Deborah could not call upon Deborah, exhorting herself to awake, &c., as in ver. 12; neither could Barak exhort himself to arise, &c., in the same verse. Again, Barak could not sing, Till I, Deborah, arose a mother in Israel, ver. 7; nor could Deborah sing about a damsel or two for every soldier, ver. 30; though, indeed, as to this last article, the words are probably misunderstood. There are other parts also which seem to require a different rendering. ver. 2, For the avenging of Israel, where the address is probably to those who took the lead in Israel on this great occasion, for the address in the next words is to those among the people who were volunteers; as again, ver. 9. ver. 11, 13-15, have many great difficulties. It seems impossible that (ver. 23) any person should be cursed for not coming to the help of JEHOVAH; to the help of JEHOVAH against the mighty. Nor does it seem more probable that Jael should, in a sacred song, be styled blessed above women for the death of Sisera. ver. 26 mentions butter, of which nothing is said in the history in chap. iv. 19; nor does the history say that Jael smote off Sisera's head with a hammer, or indeed that she smote it off at all, as here, Judges v. 26. Lastly, as to ver. 30, there being no authority for rendering the words a damsel or two damsels, and the words in Hebrew being very much like two other words in this same verse, which make excellent sense here, it seems highly probable that they were originally the same. And at the end of this verse, which contains an excellent compliment paid to the needlework of the daughters of Israel, and which is here put with great art in the mouth of Sisera's MOTHER, the true sense seems to be, the hopes SHE had of some very rich prize to adorn HER OWN NECK." -Kennicott's Remarks, p. 94. Dr. Hales observes, "That the design of this beautiful ode, which breathes the characteristic softness and luxuriance of female composition, seems to be twofold, religious and political; first, to thank GOD for the recent victory and deliverance of Israel from Canaanitish bondage and oppression; and next, to celebrate the zeal and alacrity with which some of the rulers volunteered their services against the common enemy, and to censure the lukewarmness and apathy of others who stayed at home, and thus betrayed the public cause; and, by this contrast and exposure, to heal those fatal divisions among the tribes, so injurious to the commonwealth. The first verse, as a title, briefly recites the design or subject of the poem, which consists of eight stanzas. "The first opens with a devout thanksgiving, to which she calls the attention of all, friends and foes. "The second describes, in the sublime imagery of Moses, the magnificent scenes at Mount Sinai, Seir, &c., in the deserts of Arabia, while they were led by the Divine power and presence from Egypt to Canaan. "The third states their offending afterwards by their apostasies in serving new gods, as foretold by Moses, Deut. xxxii. 16, 17, and their consequent oppression by their enemies; the insecurity of travelling, and desertion of the villages, during the twenty years that intervened from the death of Shamgar till Jael's exploit, and till Deborah became judge. By this time they were disarmed by the Philistines and Canaanites, and scarcely a sword or a spear was to be seen in Israel. This policy was adopted by the Philistines in Saul's time, 1 Sam. xiii. 19, and was probably introduced before, when Shamgar, for want of other weapons, had recourse to an ox-goad, which was only left with them for the purpose of agriculture, 1 Sam. xiii. 21. "The fourth contrasts their present happy state of security from the incursions and depredations of their foes, especially at the watering places, which were most exposed to attacks; owing to the Divine protection which crowned the victory, the zeal and exertions of 'a remnant of the people,' or a part of the tribes, against the enemy, under her conduct; these were the midland tribes of Ephraim, Manasseh, and Benjamin, including, perhaps, Judah and Simeon, which bordered on Amalek southward, and Issachar, Zebulun, and Naphtali, northward. "The fifth censures the recreant tribes Reuben and Gad, beyond Jordan eastward; and Dan and Asher, on the Mediterranean Sea westward, who deserted the common cause in consequence of their divisions, and their paltry attachment to their own concerns. "The sixth records the miraculous defeat of the confederate kings of Canaan, who were swept away by the torrents issuing from the different springs of the river Kishon, swollen by uncommon rains. Meroz was probably a place in the neighbourhood. "The seventh contains a panegyric on Jael, who is here 'blessed above women,' for attempting an exploit above her sex to perform; and a picturesque description of her giving Sisera buttermilk to drink, which is considered as a great treat at present among the Arabs.
Then follows a minute and circumstantial description of her mode of slaying him. "The eighth affords an admirable representation of the impatience of the mother of Sisera at his delay in returning; her sanguine anticipation of his success; in which she dwells, not upon the greatness of his exploits, or the slaughter of his enemies, but upon the circumstances most likely to engage a light female mind, such as captive damsels, and embroidered garments, or the spoils of victory, which she repeats and exemplifies with much grace and elegance. "The unexpected and abrupt apostrophe which concludes the poem, So perish all thine enemies, O LORD! tacitly insinuates the utter disappointment of their vain hopes of conquest and spoil more fully and forcibly than any express declaration in words; while it marks the author's piety, and sole reliance upon the Divine protection of His people, and the glorious prospect of a future and greater deliverance, perhaps, by the Sun of righteousness." -New Anal. Chron. p. 324.
DR. KENNICOTT'S VERSION OF THE SONG 1. Then sang Deborah, and Barak the son of Abinoam, saying: - 2. Deb. For the leaders who took the lead in Israel, Bar. For the people who offered themselves willingly, Both. BLESS YE JEHOVAH! 3. Deb. Hear, O ye kings! Bar. Give ear, O ye princes! Deb. I unto JEHOVAH will sing. Bar. I will answer in song to JEHOVAH; Both. THE GOD OF ISRAEL! 4. Deb. O JEHOVAH, at thy going forth from Seir At thy marching from the field of Edom, Bar. The earth trembled, even the heavens poured down.
The thick clouds poured down the waters 5. Deb. The mountains melted at JEHOVAH'S presence. Bar. Sinai itself, at the presence of JEHOVAH Both. THE GOD OF ISRAEL! 6. Deb. In the days of Shamgar, the son of Anath, In the days of Jael, the highways were deserted. Bar. For they who had gone by straight paths, Passed by ways that were very crooked.
7. Deserted were the villages in Israel. Deb. They were deserted till I, Deborah, arose Till I arose a mother in Israel.
8. They chose new gods! Bar. Then, when war was at the gates, Was there a shield seen, or a spear, Among forty thousand in Israel? 9. Deb. My heart is towards the rulers of Israel; Bar. Ye who offered yourselves willingly among the people. Both. BLESS YE JEHOVAH! 10. Deb. Ye who ride upon white asses; Ye who sit upon the seat of judgment 11. Bar. And ye who travel upon the roads, Talk of Him with the voice of praise. Deb. Let them who meet armed at the watering places There show the righteous acts of JEHOVAH, Bar. And the righteousness of the villages of Israel: Then shall they go down to the gates; Both. THE PEOPLE OF JEHOVAH! 12. Bar. Awake, awake, Deborah! Awake, awake, lead on the song. Deb.
Arise, Barak! and lead thy captivity captive, Barak, thou son of Abinoam.
13. Bar. Then, when the remainder descended after their chiefs, Jehovah's people descended after me, Against the mighty.
14. Deb. Out of Ephraim was their beginning at Mount Amalek; And after thee was Benjamin, against the nations. Bar. From Machir, came masters in the art of war; And from Zebulun, those who threw the dart.
15. Deb. The princes in Issachar were numbered Together with Deborah and Barak. Bar. And Issachar was the guard of Barak, Into the valley sent close at his feet. Deb. At the divisions of Reuben, Great were the impressions of heart.
16. Bar. Why sattest thou among the rivulet? What! to hear the bleatings of the flocks? Deb. For the divisions of Reuben, Great were the searchings of heart.
17. Bar. Gad dwelt quietly beyond Jordan; And Dan, why abode he in ships? Deb. Asher continued in the harbour of the seas, And remained among his craggy places.
18. Bar. Zebulun were the people, and Naphtali, Deb. Who exposed their lives unto the death, Both. ON THE HEIGHTS OF THE FIELD.
19. Deb. The kings came, they fought; Then fought the kings of Canaan; Bar. At Taanac, above the waters of Megiddo: The plunder of riches they did not receive.
20. Deb. From heaven did they fight; The stars, from their lofty stations, Fought against Sisera.
21. Bar. The river Kishon swept them away, The river intercepted them; the river Kishon: It was there my soul trod down strength.
22. Deb. It was then the hoofs of the cavalry were battered. By the scamperings, the scamperings of its strong steeds.
23. Bar. Curse ye the land of Meroz, Said the messenger of JEHOVAH: Deb.
Curse ye heavily its inhabitants, Because they came not for help. Both.
JEHOVAH WAS FOR HELP! JEHOVAH AGAINST THE MIGHTY! 24. Deb. Praised among women will be Jael, The wife of Heber the Kenite; Among women in the tent will she be praised.
25. Bar. He asked water, she gave him milk; In a princely bowl she brought it.
26. Deb. Her left hand she put forth to the nail; And her right hand to the workman's hammer. Bar. She struck Sisera, she smote his head; Then she struck through, and pierced his temples.
27. Deb. At her feet he bowed, he fell! Bar. At her feet he bowed, he fell! Both. WHERE HE BOWED. THERE HE FELL DEAD.
28. Deb. Through the window she looked out and called, Even the mother of Sisera, through the lattice; Bar. 'Why is his chariot ashamed to return? Why so slow are the steps of his chariot?' 29. Deb. Her wise ladies answered her; Nay, she returned answer to herself:
30. Bar. 'Have they not found, divided the spoil; Embroidery, double embroidery for the captains' heads! A prize of divers colours for Sisera!' Deb. 'A prize of divers colours of embroidery; A coloured piece of double embroidery for MY NECK, prize!' Chorus, by Deborah and Barak.
31. So perish all thine enemies, O Jehovah! Grand Chorus, by the whole procession. AND LET THOSE WHO LOVE HIM BE AS THE SUN GOING FORTH IN HIS MIGHT.
DR. HALES'S VERSION OF THE SONG 1. Then sang Deborah, and Barak son of Abinoam on (the victory of) that day, on the avenging of wrongs in Israel:
2. On the volunteering of the people; Saying, BLESS YE THE LORD! 3. Hearken, O kings, (of Canaan,) Give ear, O princes, (of the land:) I, even I, will sing unto the Lord; I will shout to the Lord, the God of Israel.
4. O Lord, on thy going forth from Seir, On thy marching from the land of Edom, The earth quaked, the heavens dropped The clouds, I say, dropped water.
5. The mountains melted away From the presence of the Lord; Even Sinai himself, from the presence OF THE LORD THE GOD OF ISRAEL.
6. From the days of Shamgar, son of Anath, To the days of Jael, (through fear of the enemy,) The highways were unfrequented, And travellars walked through by-paths.
7. The villages were deserted: They were deserted till I, Deborah, arose, Till I arose (to be) a mother in Israel.
8. (The Israelites) had chosen new gods, Therefore was war in their gates: Was there a shield or a spear to be seen Among forty thousand in Israel? 9. My heart it attached to the senators of Israel, Who volunteered among the people.
10. BLESS YE THE LORD! Ye that ride upon white asses Ye that sit in (the gates of) judgment, Extol (him) ye travelers.
11. (Now freed) from the noise of archers At the watering places, Here shall they rehearse the righteousness OF THE LORD; his righteousness Towards the villages of Israel: Now shall the people of THE LORD Go down to the gates of judgment in safety 12. Awake, awake, Deborah; Awake, awake, utter a song (of praise.) Arise now, Barak; lead thy captivity captive, Thou son of Abinoam.
13. For (God) made a remnant of the people Triumph over the nobles of the enemy; The Lord made me triumph over the mighty.
14. From Ephraim unto Amalek was their root: Next to thee (Ephraim) was Benjamin among thy people: From Machir (Manasseh) came down the senators. And from Zebulun, they that write with the pen of the scribe.
15. The princes in Issachar (were) with Deborah, Even Issachar, as well as Barak, (Naphtali,) He was sent on foot into the valley; For the divisions of Reuben (I feel) great griefs of heart.
16. Why abidest thou among the sheepfolds To hear the bleatings of the flocks? For the divisions of Reuben (I feel) great griefs of heart.
17. (Why) abode Gilead (Gad) beyond Jordan; And Dan remained in his ships? (Why did) Asher sit in his seaports, And continue in his creeks? 18. (While) the people of Zebulun hazarded their lives unto death, And of Naphtali, in the heights of the field; 19. The kings came, they fought; The kings of Canaan fought in Taanah, Near the waters of Megiddo; But they gained no lucre (thereby.) 20. The stars of heaven fought in their courses; They fought against Sisera.
21. The torrents of Kison swept them away; The torrent of Kedummim, The torrent of Kison. O my soul, Thou hast trodden down strength! 22. Then were the horsehoofs broken by the gallopings, The gallopings of their great men 23. Curse ye Meroz, saith the angel of THE LORD; Bitterly curse her inhabitants, Because they came not to the aid of THE LORD; To the aid of THE LORD among the mighty.
24. Blessed above women be Jael, The wife of Heber the Kenite; Blessed be she above women in the tent.
25. He asked water, and she gave him milk; She brought forth butter in a lordly bowl.
26. She put her hand to the nail, And her right hand to the workman's hammer; And she smote Sisera: She pierced his head, she penetrated, And she perforated his temples.
27. Between her feet he bowed, he fell, he lay Between her feet; he bowed, he fell; Where he bowed, there he fell down slain.
28. The mother of Sisera looked through the window, And exclaimed through the lattice, 'Why is his chariot so long in coming? Why linger the steps of his steeds?' 29. Her wise ladies answered their mistress Yea, she returned answer to herself:
30. 'Have they not found, Have they not divided the spoil? To each a damsel or two apiece, To Sisera himself a spoil of divers colours, A spoil of divers colours embroidered; Of divers colours embroidered on both sides. A spoil for (adorning) his neck.' 31. So perish all thine enemies, O LORD! But let thy friends (rejoice,) As the sun going forth in his strength.
Other attempts have been made to do justice to this very sublime song, and much yet remains to be done. The best means of ascertaining the sense and import of the various images and allusions contained in it is, in my opinion, the following:
1. Take the Hebrew text as it stands printed in the hemistich form in Kennicott's Hebrew Bible. 2. Collate this text with the Septuagint, Chaldee, Syriac, Vulgate, and Arabic versions, and the various readings in Kennicott and Deuteronomy Rossi. 3. Consult the writers in the Critica Sacra. And, 4. Carefully attend to the allusions made to Asiatic customs. I would gladly save my readers all this trouble, but it would extend the commentary beyond the size of the whole book, which would not comport with the brevity which I study. From this song, as well as from that of Moses, Deut. xxxii. 1-43, we see that the first, as also the best, poets of antiquity were found among the Hebrews; and that the art of poetry was highly cultivated among them many hundreds of years before Greece, or any other country of the world, could boast of ode, or epic, or any kind of poetic composition. The idolizers of Greece and Italy should not forget this: to Hebrew models both Greeks and Romans owe much of their perfection. Why are not these more studied? Why do not we go to the "fountain head?" To all the searchers after the venerable remains of antiquity, especially to poets, I would address the words of the old prophet: - Dardanidae duri, puae vos a stirpe parentum Prima tulit tellus, eadem vos ubere laeto Accipiet reduces: ANTIQUAM EXQUIRITE MATREM. VIRG. AEn., iii., ver. 94.
Ye valiant sons of Troy, the land that bore Your mighty ancestors to light before, Once more their great descendants shall embrace.
Go, seek the ANCIENT MOTHER OF YOUR RACE.- Pitt.